Would Munch’s ‘The Scream’ be popular today?
One of the wonderful things about having a website is that you can spend a happy half hour a day writing your own opinions. So here goes. You’ll remember that The Scream has just been sold in New York for many millions of dollars. One of four of the same subject, this was painted, I believe, in 1895. It became one of the most well-known paintings in the world. But would it today?
It became incredibly popular when I was a kid. Lots of us had cheap posters of The Scream on the back of our bedroom doors when we were teenagers. The Second World War was a memory our parents had. There had been the Cuban Missile Crisis, Korea, and during those times there was plenty to scream about. Then there was Vietnam. But for people my age, we had nothing to scream about, nothing to fear. Life was good.
Here is an example of the descriptions of The Scream that can be found in books and on the internet: ‘the painting is nowadays a symbol of the anguish of the contemporary world. The terrible deathly pale figure and the bloody colours of the landscape in the foreground, in addition to the forced perspective, cause an immediate sensation of anguish and anxiety to the observer.’ Exactly.
Edvard Munch was a tragic figure – a fact that was well represented in The Scream. It’s said that he suffered from severe depression. Munch himself said ”For as long as I can remember I have suffered from a deep feeling of anxiety, which I have tried to express in my art. Without anxiety and illness, I should have been like a ship without a rudder.” Exactly again.
Whilst I would very much like to own a painting worth hundreds of millions, I wouldn’t want to actually look at it every day, would you? Today, we know much more about the ways in which our surroundings – which includes the art we have on our walls – can affect our own well-being. Millions – probably the amount that was recently spent on The Scream – have been spent to determine which colors soothe us and which energize us.
We know much more about symbolism, once thought of an a bit of a hippie-dippie thing, and how images of certain subject can make us feel. These have been proved as facts, not conjecture. Studies have been conducted by marketers, the medical profession, psychologists, scientists and more. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that it’s no accident that fast food logos tend to be red / orange / yellow as these stimulate the appetite. We all know that the medical profession prefers blues and greens as these are soothing and convey trust. Facts.
Professional studies – and more metaphysical disciplines - agree that daily viewing of something like an oceanscape or a sunrise (to choose two subjects entirely at random ) is good for our mental and physical well-being. And after these studies had taken place, along came 9/11. In the years following we have seen financial chaos, foreclosed homes, businesses collapsing … but I believe that now, we are seeing the tide turn.
And knowing what we do about the effects of colors and symbolism in our lives, the last thing we need – in this era of hope for a new dawning – is to see images that don’t enrich our lives.